Hitting the pool or beach for a refreshing swim is a beloved summer pastime. But for contact lens wearers, partaking in water activities with lenses in place can be problematic. Chlorine, microorganisms, and other risks make swimming with contacts inadvisable in many cases. However, with the right precautions, you can safely swim while wearing certain types of contact lenses.
Dangers of Swimming With Contacts
Several hazards associated with swimming can impact contacts and eye health:
Exposure to Chlorine
Pool chlorine can be absorbed by some lenses, causing irritation.
Chlorine may react with contacts to form compounds that damage the eye.
Increased Infection Risk
Bacteria, fungi, and amoebas that live in water can be trapped under contacts.
Acanthamoeba parasites are a particular concern and can cause serious eye infections.
Difficulty Keeping Eyes Open Underwater
Natural reflex is to close eyes when submerged, which can dislodge contacts.
Open eyes underwater can increase microorganism exposure.
Loss of Lenses
Lenses can unexpectedly pop out and be difficult to find in pool or ocean.
Accidental lens displacement risks eye damage and vision impairment.
For these reasons, extra caution with contacts around water is essential.
Lens Types: Which Are Safest for Swimming?
Not all contacts carry the same level of risk for swimming. Here is how common varieties compare:
Soft Daily Disposables
Offer adequate comfort and vision for casual swims.
Reduce infection risk since thrown away after one use.
Affordable enough to use a fresh pair for swimming only.
Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP)
Provide consistently clear vision underwater.
Less prone to dislodging due to tight fit.
Require very careful cleaning after swimming to avoid infections.
Soft Monthly or Biweekly
Absorb more chlorine and microbes during swimming compared to daily lenses.
Higher bacteria risk with reuse.
Vision likely to blur more underwater than with RGPs.
For maximum safety, choose daily disposable contacts for any water activities.
Tips for Safely Swimming With Contacts
To make wearing contacts in the pool or ocean safer:
- Opt for goggles. Added eye protection reduces contamination and displacement risk.
- Always keep spare glasses or lenses poolside in case of issues with current pair.
- Rinse eyes with fresh water before and after swimming to dilute chlorine exposure.
- Wash hands thoroughly before handling lenses around water to avoid microbe transfer.
- Avoid opening eyes underwater. Keep closed whenever submerged.
- Discard and replace lenses after saltwater swimming due to salt and microbe buildup.
- Schedule follow-up eye exams regularly to check for swimming-related issues.
While contacts do raise safety considerations for swimming, these tips help reduce the risks substantially.
Caring for Contacts After Swimming
To prevent complications following water activities while wearing contacts:
Rinse Off Lenses
Rub gently to wash away chlorine, salt, sand, and debris that could scratch eyes or harbor microbes.
Use fresh sterile saline rinse, never tap water.
Follow Normal Disinfection Routine
Rub and rinse lenses with hydrogen peroxide solution daily.
Use protein removers weekly to prevent buildup from chlorine and saltwater.
Replace lens case regularly to avoid contamination.
Watch Closely for Problems
Remove lenses immediately if eyes appear red, feel irritated, or vision worsens after swimming.
See an optometrist promptly if symptoms of infection develop like discharge or pain. Diligent lens care prevents swimming-related infections down the line.
Alternatives to Consider for Safe Swimming
If the risks of swimming with contacts seem too high, safer alternatives include:
Wear Prescription Swimming Goggles
Designed to securely fit prescriptions lenses, keeping eyes protected.
Use Single-Use Disposable Lenses
Affordable option to wear a fresh pair solely for swimming, then throw away.
Swim Without Contacts In
If your vision isn’t terrible without lenses, simply swim without them. Bring glasses for clarity when out of the water.
Discuss options with your eye doctor to find the right solution for comfortably and safely enjoying water sports.
Swim Worry-Free With a Few Precautions
For those dependent on contacts, swimming sans lenses may not be an appealing option. With responsible choices in lens type, smart swimming habits, and proper follow-up care, it is possible to safely swim wearing contacts. Just be sure to listen to your eyes. If irritation, foggy vision, or discomfort occurs during or after swimming, promptly remove lenses and call your optometrist. By taking a few extra precautions, you can minimize risks and comfortably swim with contacts in place.